Digital Nomads

How to Find a Job You Can Work from Anywhere

If you want to work from anywhere, one possibility is to start your own business. But running a business isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! So assuming you still need an income, the other choice is to get a job that lets you work from anywhere you want.

how to land a remote job and work from anywhere

Finding Remote Jobs through Online Job Boards

There are tons of job boards online. Due to the increase in remote jobs due to COVID, many of these now allow you to filter your search results for remote jobs that let you work from anywhere. For example, you can go to Monster.com or Indeed.com, search for a job, and then in the filters, check a box to only show remote job opportunities.

Most of these jobs will allow you to work anywhere, although some may occasionally require you to visit a specific location, so you’ll want to read the descriptions closely.

There are also websites that are dedicated to remote work, such as FlexJobs, We Work Remotely, and Virtual Vocations.

Of course, word of mouth and referrals from colleagues are always a great way to get a new job. Consider putting your resume on various sites, including LinkedIn, and note that you would especially like a remote job. And let everyone in your network know what you’re hoping to find, because they just might be the key to finding the perfect job.

What Kinds of “Work From Anywhere” Jobs are Available?

Tons!

If you have technical skills, you can be a web developer or software developer, or you can get into technical support either online or by phone.

If you are better at marketing, you can manage a business’s social media, paid advertising, and more. If you like to write, you can be a technical writer or an editor online. If you prefer to teach, there are lots of teaching positions available, especially to teach English as a second language to people inside the US and also in other countries.

There are jobs for lawyers, accountants, executive assistants, virtual assistants, product managers, graphic designers, and many other careers.

What you can’t do remotely is usually pretty obvious: you can’t be a waitress, a gas station attendant, or a babysitter without being in the same location as your customers!

Figuring Our What Hours You Will Work

Being able to work from anywhere certainly allows you to travel more, but location isn’t the only thing to consider. Some jobs let you work whatever hours you want, but many of them require you to be available for a specific shift. That might be “business hours” of 8am to 5pm in the business’s local time, or it might need to coincide with when they need you, for example, if you’re applying for online support positions.

If the hours you need to work for the business coincide with when you want to work, and you’re in the same time zone, all is well! But if you’re applying to work for a company halfway around the world, you’ll need to consider whether their 8am-5pm is really your 5pm-2am…and does that suit you?

This is where it’s important to understand the difference between being an employee and being an independent contractor. (The following applies to laws in the United States; other countries may vary.)

Are You an Employee or a Contractor?

An employee is someone who is hired by a company to work a set number of hours, at either a fixed rate per hour (maybe with overtime) or a fixed yearly salary. The company handles your payroll taxes, pays their half of your Social Security and Medicare payments, and provides you with a W2 each year to file with your income tax return. A business can set the hours for its employees to whatever it wants. In other words, your employer determines your work schedule.

A contractor, in contrast, is someone that a company engages with almost as they would a separate business. Your income is negotiated with the company, and could be based on hours worked, performance, or whatever you and the company agree to. The company gives you a form 1099 each year, and you use that to file your taxes.

As such, you are really a business, what’s known as a sole proprietor. You will need to pay quarterly estimated tax payments, or incorporate yourself and manage your own payroll. You pay your own payroll taxes; your employer doesn’t withhold anything, nor do they pay your Social Security and Medicare.

Being a contractor therefore puts an additional burden on you, but the benefit is that your employer can’t set your hours. If you want to work in the daytime, at night, on weekends, only every third day, etc… that’s your right. In fact, if the company even attempts to require you to work certain hours, the government may decide you’re an employee after all, and require the company to manage your payroll, withholdings, etc.

Don’t take my word for it; here’s what the IRS has to say about employees versus independent contractors.

Of course, the flip side is that if you’re not meeting whatever contractual requirements you and the company have in place, they can simply stop sending work your way, or outright terminate the relationship, and you don’t even get unemployment compensation.

So when you start a job, understand what the relationship is and make sure the hours suit your needs…especially if you will be traveling among various time zones!

Is a Remote Job Right for You?

Not everyone will enjoy having a remote job, even if you can work from anywhere you want. There are some benefits to going into the office for your daily grind, such as being able to interact with your colleagues and friends in a face to face manner. There’s also a clear line between work and home – you do your work when you’re at work, and the rest of your time is typically is dedicated to your personal and home life.

When you work from home, your chances to interact with others is more limited. It’s harder to build working relationships, much less friendships, when you don’t see people in person. It’s also more difficult to separate your work from the rest of your life; you may find yourself working longer hours, leading to more stress. On the flip side, the temptation to do laundry or take a nap or simply see the world may make it hard for you to buckle down and work!

You have to be a self-starter. Sure, you have a manager to report to, and specific goals to meet, but you have to be willing to make yourself sit down and do your job. No one is looking over your shoulder like they would be if you sat at a cubicle or in an office located on-site.

However, if you can do that, the benefits of working from home are amazing. One of the biggest benefits lower costs in transportation (no commute!) and fewer hours traveling to your job.

You may also spend less money on your wardrobe, if you’re not meeting in person with colleagues and customers every day. Working from home also lets you grab a bite to eat from the refrigerator, rather than either planning ahead to bring your lunch to work, or running out for an unhealthy fast food meal.

And most of all, a remote job can allow you to travel more. Even if you’re working normal full-time hours, you can move from place to place in the evenings or on weekends, allowing you to be in a new-to-you location as often as you want.

For more blog posts about being location-independent, so you can work from anywhere, please see the following:

Digital Nomads

5 Ideas to Monetize Your Travel Blog

If you’ve decided to add blogging as a side hustle, or even to start a travel blog as your main source of income, you probably have questions. One of those is how to monetize your travel blog. Last week I discussed travel blogging as one way to start your own location-independent business. There are many other possibilities, but this is what I know best and I want to share with you what I know so that you can begin to increase your income and/or replace the job that ties you down to one location and a small, fixed amount of travel during your vacations.

How to Monetize Your Travel Blog

I started this blog 12 years ago, and for a long time I didn’t take it very seriously. Over the past two years, I’ve worked to improve it and monetize it. I still have room to grow, and you’ll see more of this coming later this quarter. But for those of you who want to do the same, here are some of the top ideas to monetize your travel blog.

Display Ads

Showing ads on your website is one of the easiest ways to bring in money from your blog. There’s no up-front cost, and very little ongoing work. Most bloggers start with Google Ads, because, well, everyone knows Google and they make sure of that! Google Ads is a great place to start, and lets you dabble in display advertising without a long commitment and without too much technical knowledge.

The income from Google Ads is usually lower than other networks, however, so many people move from Google to Ezoic pretty quick. Ezoic is another ad network with, typically, a higher payout per view. Why Ezoic? Because you don’t have to meet a minimum threshold of monthly visitors or pageviews in order to qualify. Any blog with any amount of traffic is eligible to apply. Ezoic can be a bit difficult technically, so you should expect to spend some time getting them up-and-running, but once you do, it pretty much goes on autopilot.

Once bloggers reach a higher threshold, they usually move on to other networks that pay even better. Some of the most popular ones are AdThrive, Mediavine, and SHE Media. The current thresholds for these programs are:

AdThrive: 100,000 pageviews per month

Mediavine: 50,000 sessions per month

SHE Media: 20,000 pageviews per month

Each one has additional requirements as well; traffic is only one component. But traffic is usually the biggest hurdle to move to one of these networks. Note that in the list above, different metrics are used. Your blog’s pageviews will always be equal to or higher than the number of sessions, because each session can have more than one pageview.

As soon as you hit all of the minimum requirements for a given network, you should give real consideration to moving.

Affiliate Programs

An affiliate program is a referral system where you link to a product or service, and if a purchase is made, you get a small percentage paid to you in commission. When you link to them, you have to use a specially-coded link that includes your referrer ID, so the site can track which purchases come from you. Each affiliate program will help you build links in this manner. There are tons of affiliate programs out there, many of which are perfect for travel bloggers.

A good place to start here is the Amazon Associates program. But don’t join the minute you launch your blog. They’ll close your account if you don’t make a sale right away. (As will many other programs.) You can always reapply, but until you have enough traffic to actually send buyers their way, you’re wasting time. So wait until you have a decent amount of visitors to your blog before you add affiliate products.

There are affiliate networks that offer great programs: two are Commission Junction and ShareASale. Some affiliate programs are self-managed, too. Usually, if there’s a company you want to promote, you can find out if they have a program by searching Google for “[company name] affiliate program” and it will take you right to it.

As a travel blogger, there are tons of things to promote: hotel bookings, travel tours, gear and gadgets, and more. Consider your blog’s niche; if you focus on hiking, then a program for boots and one for hiking staffs is probably great. If you blog about international travel, then items that are commonly used on planes and trains would be good, as would items that help you travel lightly.

I also recommend you review your affiliate program performance regularly. If a particular product isn’t producing results, replace it. If the whole program isn’t producing results, consider if you should change or completely get rid of it in favor of a different program.

Post Sponsored Content

Lots of companies and websites are looking to get their name in front of a wider audience. As such, they may offer to provide you with sponsored content. Basically, this means they are writing an article for publication on your website in exchange for the visibility your site provides. (They may also do it just for a link; be careful about that because Google has strict policies about link schemes, and might demote your site as a result. To be safe, offer no-follow links instead of “do follow” ones, even if you have to turn away some of your opportunities.)

As a blogger, you will get tons of email spam about this. Most of it is junk: poorly written, thin content in exchange for a link to a possibly-questionable site. But there are some jewels among all the rubbish. Typically these will pay you some money for the post, and it can be a really good source of income! Since I don’t personally do a lot of this, I’m going to point you to an article that explains sponsored content in more detail.

Paid Training – eBooks, Courses, and Coaching

As you’ve grown as both a blogger and a traveler, you’ve gained experience. Some of that is information that can be useful to other people! You can offer your knowledge in the form of a paid eBook (easier) or training course (more work but higher potential payout).

Offer your paid product on your website and in your social media. Get it in front of as many people as you can!

Another possibility is to set up a paid newsletter on Substack where subscribers get your premium content for a recurring subscription fee.

You can also choose to teach people what you know in a more “live” environment. It can be online or in person. Think about how this might work – you can offer 1-hour one-on-one Zoom training sessions. You can create a paid group where you offer a certain amount of group training per month. You can hold in-person classes, perhaps through your local continuing education or business training facilities.

Don’t underestimate what you know and think everyone else knows the same. Chances are you have valuable information to share, and if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you can have this as a great income source.

Offer Travel Services – Planning, Tours, Etc.

The last suggestion I have is to use your blog to sell related services.

For me, a lot of my travel centers around birding. There are lots of birds in my area, I know where to find them, and I could sell my services as a local birding guide to people who want to come to Florida to see birds. Perhaps you’re into long-trek hiking and could sell guide services that way, or even packing and transportation for overnight hikers.

Guide services don’t have to be local to you, either, if you know enough about your offerings in other areas. Perhaps you know a ton about art, and where to see the best artwork at different museums in a large city. You could, for example, offer a guided trip within Paris or New York City to visit various museums where you could share what you know about various paintings and sculptures…you get a trip and you get paid at the same time.

Or if you’re really good at planning trips and booking travel, you could offer travel planning services. While some people like to “wing it”, others want a complete itinerary when they’re spending their hard-earned money on a trip somewhere. You could plan out different activities for each day, and even book tickets to the attractions. If you really want to go the extra mile, you could become a travel agent and offer your services through your blog. After all, people are already on your blog because they’re interested in travel, so you have an engaged audience.

In Conclusion: How to Monetize Your Travel Blog

There are other ways to use your travel blog to make money, and I’m sure you can come up with creative alternatives to the list above. But these are fairly standard and common practices that are already in use by other travel bloggers. If you’re early on in your travel blogging journey, and looking for small wins or sure successes, try these tried and true options. Good luck in your blogging journey!

Digital Nomads

How to Start a New Location-Independent Business and Travel More

I have worked full-time for myself, in my own location-independent business, for the past 19 years. Yes, I’m lucky. Yes, I’ve been blessed. But I’ve also worked very hard to be able to have this lifestyle. And you can too!

I’d like to use my experience to help you start a business that you can run from anywhere in the world. After all, that’s the only way to be able to travel full-time, unless you’re retired (with money) or independently wealthy. If your goal is to travel more, without being tied to a mere two weeks of vacation a year, then this guide is for you.

woman sitting on the beach and working on her location-independent business

How I Started My Own Business

I don’t want to spend too much time on my own story, but I do want you to know how I’m qualified to write about this topic.

I got a bachelor’s degree in 1996, and immediately went to work for a large company. I didn’t love it, though. I knew I wanted to work in web development, and at that time, web developer jobs were few and far between. I could see how the Internet was on the verge of exploding, though, and I knew it would be a viable choice in my career. So in 1999, I started building small websites for customers as my side hustle. Later that year, I found the e-commerce platform that has sustained me for over two decades. As I learned more, and as the platform grew, so did the demand for my skills.

In 2003, I quit my last “traditional” job, and since then, I’ve only worked in and on my business. So that’s almost two decades of experience I have, and that I want to share with you today.

OK, Susan, then How Can I Become a Digital Nomad?

Great question!

There are really two ways to do this. You can get a remote job with a company, one that lets you work wherever you want. Or you can start a location-independent business that lets you work wherever you want.

Basically, you need some kind of income that isn’t tied to your location.

In this post, I’m going to address the business option. (I do want to write about more traditional jobs, but I’m saving that for a later post.)

What Kind of Business Can You Start?

Before you start a location-independent business, you need to decide what kind of business to create! This is where you have to consider a number of factors.

First off, what are your skills? Most location-independent businesses are going to be tied to the Internet. You can be a blogger who monetizes their website, which is a popular route that many people take. Blogging is also a bit over-saturated, and you’re going to have to probably work harder (and smarter) than you might have ten years ago, when there were fewer sites to compete with. But blogging is a great path if you commit to making it work.

There are other kinds of content creation too. There are people who literally make a full-time living on Instagram or Tik Tok. I don’t have the first clue how to do that, so I won’t advise you to specifics there, but it’s possible. It ties in closely, too, with being a professional travel photographer, another great option.

You can also offer your services online. If you have a programming background, like me, you can do coding for other people. Or graphic design. Or copywriting. You can be a virtual assistant, and help people with tasks like email marketing, Pinterest optimization, and much more.

I have written about some side hustle ideas over on my work website, so take a look there for additional ideas.

Now, you don’t HAVE to offer online services to be location independent, although it is somewhat easier. You could offer things to local communities, and simply move between communities. Think food truck, craft shows, or some kind of training that lots of people really need. The problem there is that you have to start getting new clients again every time you get to a new location, so keep that in mind too.

Just know that you can’t travel the world and simultaneously work a job where you have to go to a specific building to perform your daily tasks. You can’t be a waiter in a restaurant while traveling. You could work different jobs, one after another, in different locations, of course. You just wouldn’t be moving from one location to another while working the same location-dependent job.

That said, you can create a business that is tied to a specific location, and hire people in that area to do the day-to-day work, while you oversee the business at a higher level from wherever you happen to be that day.

And of course, keep your skillset in mind. If you aren’t a technical person, you can’t offer technical services – unless you’re willing to take time to learn. (And I truly believe that anyone can learn technical skills if they’re willing to invest the time.) Play to your strengths!

How Do I Actually Start a Business?

Once you have an idea, starting the new business isn’t that difficult. Just pick a name (and it can be your own – e.g. Jane Doe, Virtual Assistant) and start drumming up business!

Eventually you may want to consider incorporating your location-independent business, forming a limited liability company, or similar. Incorporating has benefits that include lower taxes, legal protections, and more. If you’re in the United States, read How to Choose the Right Legal Structure for Your New Business, or if you’re in another country, search Google for how to do this where your business is based.

You may also wish to consult an accountant and/or a lawyer for advice regarding this step. Also, this is optional; many people operate as sole proprietors, which means that legally their business isn’t a separate entity from who they are as a person. There’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure you aren’t missing out on important benefits of incorporation. In other words, do it because it makes sense, not just because you don’t want to learn about incorporating!

How Do I Find Clients?

Finding customers when you’re first starting out is often the biggest hurdle. Here are some ideas.

1. Create a Website

Most professional businesses have a website. It lends legitimacy to your offerings, and can also be a way for people to find you. You can build one yourself using Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress. You might also choose to invest some money up front and use a company like Fiverr and hire someone to create a website for you. Read up on search engine optimization or take an SEO course so you can learn how to get website in front of your potential customers in Google.

2. Build Your Social Media Profiles

Create social media profiles for your company and start promoting your services there. I recommend grabbing your business or personal name on any and all social media sites you can, just so you have them. But you don’t have to use all of them; it’s better to learn one platform, maybe two, and learn to use it well

If your business is image-based (such as a photographer, or a travel blogger like me) then Instagram can be a great platform. You only get one link in your profile, but if you use a service like LinkTree, you can expand that reach. Instagram doesn’t allow links in posts, but it does allow them in stories now. (It used to only be available to accounts with 10,000+ followers, but that changed in 2021.)

If your business is more traditional, or if you’re offering business-to-business services, then LinkedIn might be a better choice. It tends to attract business people and is used more in that community than for “fun”. Twitter still has a lot of traction, particularly for entertainment and politics. Also consider your target audience. If you want to market to younger people, consider TikTok. If you want to market to an older crowd, Facebook is for you.

3. Participate in Local or Online Networking and Business Groups

If you have a home base, look for local networking groups in your area. Businesses often work off referrals, so if you meet other entrepreneurs in different fields, they may have clients who also need your services and be willing to recommend you. Groups like American Business Women’s Association and Rotary Club are great examples. For more examples, check out this post by Insureon.

4. Ask Friends and Family to Spread the Word

Work with what you already know, too. Ask your friends and family members to spread the word about your new endeavor. They may mention it to someone who becomes your first client, or to someone who introduces you to your next business partner. You never know! But word of mouth is a great way to advertise, because people trust recommendations from people they know well, much more than online reviews.

5. Get Business Cards

Yes, business cards are still a thing! Especially when you’re traveling, because you never know when you might strike up a conversation on a plane or taxi or white sandy beach. They’re an inexpensive and easy way to help people remember to look up more information or contact you at a later date.

Expectations of Running a Business as a Digital Nomad

When most people start a new business, they start slowly. You probably can’t quit your existing job right away, unless you have funding of some sort, or enough savings to live on for awhile. In fact, the hard truth is, this often is harder before it gets easier. You may be working your side hustle at night or on weekends, while still working a full-time 8-5 job. But with a good plan and hard work, you’ll eventually be able to quit the day job and make your side hustle your actual career.

When you do have a location-independent business that meets your financial needs, then you can be free to travel. You still may have some restrictions, however. For example, don’t expect to spend months in locations where the Internet connections aren’t great, if your business requires consistent high-speed internet access. The Galapagos might still have to wait for a vacation!

Road Trips United States

A Beautiful Vermont Road Trip Down Scenic Route 100

Vermont Route 100 is one of the most beautiful places for a day-long Vermont road trip. There are fun tourist attractions, beautiful waterfalls, and quaint towns. With that much variety, there’s a bit of something for everyone.

During the summer of 2021 we took a road trip through New England that included this beautiful drive through the Green Mountains of Vermont. We had spent the previous night in Burlington, Vermont, and drove from there to Concord, New Hampshire. Below you’ll find some of the attractions we visited along the way, most of which are along Route 100.

Burlington

Burlington is a great starting point if you want to spend time in a fun city in Vermont. It’s the home of the University of Vermont, so it’s a college town, but has a lot to do for tourists, too. This is where our trip started. We flew into the airport in Burlington and had booked a room at the Hilton Garden Inn. Burlington is easy to get around, and the Hilton Garden Inn is within walking distance to several of the places we wanted to go.

Church Street, Burlington, Vermont

Church Street

One of the most popular places to spend time is Church Street. This 7-block long street is lined with restaurants, coffee shops, and shops of all kinds. This is where we had planned to eat dinner and let our daughters do some shopping. But mainly we just wanted to walk around, do some people-watching, and get a general vibe of the area.

It was drizzling when we arrived, but we just put on raincoats with hoods and headed out anyway. It’s a very short walk past City Hall to get to Church Street. We walked around for awhile, and did some window shopping – some of the stores were already closed but some were still open. We checked out the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop, looked at some of the murals, and basically just hung out for awhile.

We ended up getting dinner at a place called Ri Ra. I’m not sure where the name comes from, but it’s an Irish pub and the cute signs in the window drew us in. I’m so glad it did, because Ri Ra had the best fish and chips I’ve had here in the States! They even had curry sauce for the chips (aka French fries as we call them here). It was AMAZING! They had a great local beer selection, and I chose Second Fiddle by Fiddlehead Brewing Company in nearby Shelburne, VT. My husband had a burger and long-island iced tea, and the girls both got mac ‘n’ cheese, and they were all delicious!

We also found a cute and wonderful-smelling coffee shop called Black Cap Coffee & Beer. Those are two of my favorite things! So the next morning we went back there for breakfast and it was really delicious. And by then the rain had cleared out, so we enjoyed our second walk down Church Street even more.

Lake Champlain from Burlington, VT

Lake Champlain

The other thing we wanted to see in Burlington was Lake Champlain. Supposedly it’s the largest lake in the United States except for the five great lakes. (Apparently there is some debate over this.) We had hoped to catch the sunset there the night before, but the weather kept that from happening. We went there the next day and took a few pictures of the marina and the small lighthouse not far off-shore. We didn’t have time to do much, but at least we got to see it.

World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet

The other thing I wanted to see in Burlington was a cool roadside attraction: the world’s tallest filing cabinet! It was a short drive away from our hotel, so after we checked out, that was the first place we went. It’s a quick visit because it’s literally just a tall set of filing cabinets in the middle of a parking lot.

How tall is the world’s tallest filing cabinet? I’m glad you asked! It’s over 50 feet tall and made of 38 individual filing cabinets. It’s a public art installation whose real name is “File Under So. Co., Waiting for…” and built by Bren Alvarez. If you want to visit it yourself, you can easily find it on iMaps or Google Maps, but the address is 208 Flynn Avenue.

Waterbury

After we left the filing cabinet, it was time to start the actual road trip! We got on Interstate 89 to go to Waterbury, which is where we’d pick up Route 100. There were a couple of things we wanted to see in Waterbury, though, which made it a great start to the day.

Employee working at Cold Hollow Cider Mills
Employee working at Cold Hollow Cider Mills

Cold Hollow Cider Mills

Our first stop was Cold Hollow Cider Mills. Being from Florida, we don’t get to enjoy the results of the apple-picking season that our northern friends do. We definitely had to try the apple cider and, more importantly, the apple cider donuts! They were both really delicious! The donuts aren’t too sweet, so they offset the sweeter cider really well. Even though it hadn’t been that long since breakfast, it was a wonderful treat.

There’s a small area inside where you can see some of how the cider is made. We enjoyed watching the employees go about their jobs. We also shopped around at the store, which had a lot of cute offerings. We got some different jams, a jar of Alchemist Tipsy Pickles (pickles made with the local Alchemist beer) and a half gallon of apple cider for the road.

It was almost time for Ben and Jerry’s to open, but not quite, so we stopped into the Waterbury location of the Woodstock Farmer’s Market, and got some snacks for the road.

Ben and Jerry's Factory and Flavor Graveyard
Ben and Jerry’s Factory and Flavor Graveyard

Ben and Jerry’s Factory and Flavor Graveyard

The Ben and Jerry’s factory was one of the main attractions we wanted to see on our trip. The factory itself was closed for renovations, which we fortunately knew ahead of time. But the graveyard was open! I know, that sounds weird. It’s not really a graveyard, there’s no one buried there. Instead, it’s a Flavor Graveyard, with tombstones for all of the discontinued Ben & Jerry’s flavors from years past.

We really wanted to see Schweddy Balls, a flavor that was named after the famous Saturday Night Live skit, and Vermonty Python which features our favorite British comedy troupe. What I hadn’t prepared myself for, was the memory of Wav Gravy! That was my favorite flavor when I was a teenager, and I had completely forgotten about it! There are lots of discontinued flavors and each one has a cute poem about its demise, as well as the “birth” and “death” dates.

Then we each got a cone of our favorite current flavors as well. Mine is, of course, Phish Food, named after one of my favorite bands, Phish, who are also from Vermont.

Warren

After our activities in Waterbury, we picked up Route 100 and headed south away from the town and further into the Green Mountains

Warren Covered Bridge
Warren Covered Bridge

Warren Covered Bridge

We absolute had to see some of the covered bridges along the way, and the first one we came to was the Warren Covered Bridge. It was originally constructed in 1880! We pulled to the side of the road and took a few pictures there.

People swimming at Warren Falls
People swimming at Warren Falls

Warren Falls

Not too far past the covered bridge, we pulled into the parking lot for Warren Falls. This is a popular waterfall and swimming hole for locals. Although we did wade into the Mad River above the falls, it was a little bit too cold for our tastes! But we watched a group of about 20 people swimming and even jumping from the cliffs into the water. It looked like a lot of fun (maybe for someone younger than I!) And the river itself is scenic and worth getting pictures of.

Moss Glen Falls

Moss Glen Falls
Moss Glen Falls

A bit further down Route 100, we could Moss Glen Falls. Now, there’s a weird thing to note here. There is ANOTHER “Moss Glen Falls” further north, in Stowe. So if you’re trying to follow along on a map, and you think I’m telling you to backtrack, you’re probably looking at the wrong location.

This particular Moss Glen Falls is the one with the Granville, Vermont address. It’s only about 10 minutes south of Warren Falls.

This waterfall is much taller and even easier to get to. Just park in the small lot and walk a very short distance down a boardwalk, and the falls are right in front of you. You can see them from the road. They’re very pretty, so this is a quick stop with a big payout in terms of scenery!

Scene from our road trip along Vermont Route 100
Scene from our road trip along Vermont Route 100

After we were done seeing Moss Glen Falls, there was another hour-long drive continuing south on Scenic Route 100. You’ll come across the top of the mountain range, and drive along a river that now flows south (instead of north, as the Mad River did back at Warren.) There are scenic iews of the mountains and valleys, as well as quaint farms and pretty vacation areas.

Woodstock

When we got to Vermont 107, we headed east to continue on to Woodstock. This was the perfect picturesque town, one that I could see us actually moving to! Not too small, not too big. There was an open air farmer’s market that appeared to draw a lot of interest. It was crowded but not unreasonably so.

Taftsville Covered Bridge
Taftsville Covered Bridge

Taftsville Covered Bridge

Once we got through the main part of town in Woodstock, we came to another pretty covered bridge, the Taftsville bridge. This one is painted red, so it has a nice contrast with the Warren covered bridge. It’s nice if you want to see a variety of different bridge styles and colors. It wasn’t on a busy road, so it was easy to park beside it and take pictures of the outside of the bridge and also from the inside where cars can drive.

Sugarbush Farm maple syrup lines

Sugarbush Farm

Just past the Taftsville covered bridge, we headed up the mountain road toward Sugarbush Farm. This is a working maple syrup and cheese farm that’s open to the public. Inside, you can learn how maple syrup is made, and what the different “grades” of syrup means and how they taste different from each other. They let you sample the syrups from a small paper cup, and taste some varieties of cheese, too.

There’s a store inside, so we bought a maple syrup sampler as well as several kinds of cheese. The mountain jack was my favorite!

You can also take a short hike on a trail up the side of the mountain. There, we were able to see where the maple trees are tapped, and the tubes that allow the sap to flow downhill for collection, before it gets turned into syrup. There’s also a cute little chapel for private events.

Quechee Covered Bridge
Quechee Covered Bridge

Quechee Covered Bridge

After we’d eaten our fill at Sugarbush Farm, we wanted to go to Simon Pearce…more about that in a minute, though, because we parked right by Quechee Covered Bridge, so there’s one more covered bridge to mention! This one is right by a manmade dam and the Mill Pond Falls created by the dam. The back side of the Simon Pearce building backs right up to it, and the whole area is really pretty and makes for a few great pictures.

What’s nice about the Quechee Covered Bridge is that it allows cars, but there’s a separate pedestrian walkway along the side of it. (More photo opps!)

Simon Pearce Glass
Simon Pearce Glass

Simon Pearce Glass Blowing

The flagship store for Simon Pearce Glass is located here. So once we finished taking pictures at the bridge, we went inside the store. On the lower floor, there are people who are actively doing glass blowing. It was hot in there, but lots of fun to watch. The glass items in the store above are pricey but really well made, and there’s a lot of variety. I was tempted to buy one of their glass Christmas trees, but then I thought about the hassle of bringing it back on the plane, then trying to keep it safe from the cat every holiday…and decided I’d just rather look and enjoy, than make a purchase!

Quechee Gorge
Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge

The last thing to see in Vermont was the Quechee Gorge. It’s also lovingly called the Grand Canyon of the East, because it’s the deepest canyon in Vermont. At the bottom is the Ottauquechee river. We approached the gorge on US Highway 4, and parked just before the bridge. There’s a big parking area with plenty of room to pull off the road. Along Highway 4, there are pedestrian walkways (with tall fences!) on both sides of the road, so you can look out to both the south and the north.

Again, it’s easy to get to, and easy parking and walking, so not much effort for a big payback in terms of the view!

And that about does it for the Vermont portion of our road trip. From Highway 4, we picked up the interstate and headed on into New Hampshire. I have to say that this particular day had the biggest variety of things to do, and the prettiest sights, of our entire trip. If you want to read more about our trip, check out my review of Cap’n Fish’s Puffin Trip, and my 2-Day Itinerary for New York City.

Featured New York Travel

The Perfect 2 Days in New York City Itinerary

We recently had a wonderful opportunity to spend two days together with (most of) our family in New York City. This 2 Days in New York City itinerary reflects our actual trip. The main difference is that we actually arrived mid-morning on Sunday, and left mid-morning on Tuesday.

Our teenage daughters had never been to NYC, and my husband and I hadn’t been there for about twenty years. So this was an exciting part of our summer travels that started in New England and ended in The Big Apple!

I’ll note that Broadway was still closed at the time of our visit, so this 2-day itinerary for New York City does not include any shows. However, I’ll note within how you could easily adjust your to include a Broadway show of your choice!

Day 1

Breakfast

I am never one to skip a meal, and I can heartily recommend Andrews as a great local diner with delicious coffee and breakfast. We chose Andrews Coffee Shop on 7th Avenue, because of the proximity to our hotel, which was on 36th street. It was recommended by the porter, whom we had befriended upon arrival. I was glad to see that my Americano didn’t take long to arrive, because I was dragging and needed he caffeine!

Our daughters both ordered Nutella pancakes, which were delicious. Being in New York, I of course went for the classic bagel and cream cheese option, which did not disappoint. My husband doesn’t eat breakfast, so he sat patiently and watched us devour our meals.

Then, because we wanted to give the girls the true city experience, we took the subway from there up to Central Park.

The fountains at the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The fountains at the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I feel like, when you visit the city for the first time, it’s important to go to one of the museums. We gave the girls their choice between the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the American Museum of Natural History. They chose The Met. At the time we were there, you had to purchased timed-entry tickets, which I didn’t realized ahead of time. So we had approximately a 30-minute wait before we could go inside. We used that time to shop a couple of vendors along 5th Avenue, and to sit by the fountains and people watch.

Inside the museum, you’ll find several floors of permanent collections, as well as a few traveling exhibits. In my opinion, the must-see attractions are:

  • The Egypt wing and its Tomb of Perneb
  • The American wing, in particular, Washington Crossing the Delaware
  • The Medieval Armor Galleries, complete with a suit of armor actually worn by Henry VIII
  • The European Paintings Collection, with pieces from Klimt, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, and many more

There are also areas for African art, Asian art, Islamic art, Greek and Roman art, modern and contemporary art, and musical instruments.

Rather than taking time for a long lunch on a short itinerary, consider grabbing a hot dog or other delicious bite from a street vendor. That will give you more time at the museum and Rockefeller Center, which is next. Another option would be a quick sandwich at one of the cafes inside the Met.

Get tickets for the Met here

Top of the Rock

After you finish at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can take a cab or have about a 30 minute walk down to Rockefeller Center. If you’re able, I suggest the walk, because you’ll get to see a lot of New York City. As you walk down past Central Park, you can choose to see certain areas inside it, like Alice in Wonderland, the Delacorte Clock, Gapstow Bridge, and the Pulitzer Fountain. You’ll also pass Central Park Zoo, which you probably don’t have time for in this itinerary. But if you’d prefer to see that rather than Top of the Rock, that would work nicely too.

Once you get past Central Park, you’ll be in one of the main shopping sections of Fifth Avenue. What a great chance to window shop! Look for Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, BVLGARI, Gucci, Coach, and Salvatore Ferragamo. Also take a gawk and Trump Tower…and do with that what you will based on your own political inclinations 😉 If you have kids with you, they may appreciate a stop at The Lego Store!

At 50th street, turn right and head west for half of a block, and you’ll be at Rockefeller Center. But don’t go inside until you snap a picture of Radio City Music hall at the end of the block!

The main attraction here is going to the top of the building to see the skyline of New York City. After all, you may only be in New York City for 2 days with this itinerary, but you have to see the city from a bird’s eye view!

My 2 days in New York City Itinerary includes a view of the skyline from Top of the Rock
View of the Empire State Building taken from Top of the Rock

Now, some people prefer seeing the skyline from the Empire State Building, and that’s a great option too. I like Top of the Rock, because you can actually see the Empire State Building (you know, because you’re not standing on it? LOL) The views are incredible any time of day, but just before and after sunset is really nice.

This is another attraction where you will do best to order your timed-entry tickets in advance. If you don’t want to stand in line and if your budget allows, get the VIP passes and avoid the longer lines. It will get you to the top faster. Once you’re at the top, it doesn’t give you any added benefits. But since 2 days isn’t much time, we felt like this was worth the extra cost, so that we didn’t spend our precious time waiting in line.

At the top, there are two different levels where you can see the city. On the 70th floor, you can see the skyline from both inside and out. Don’t feel worried if you’re scared of heights, however. The outdoor area has glass walls to prevent falling or jumping, and you can clearly see through them. If you want photographs, don’t fret; there are gaps in between the panes, perfect for positioning your camera.

You can also go up one more floor, which is smaller in square footage than the lower floor, but offers additional unencumbered views. There are no glass planes here, but if you were to fall, you’d only make it back down one flight to the deck of the 70th floor.

Make sure to look north and see Central Park; to look west over the river to New Jersey, and of course, look south to see the Empire State Building as well as One World Trade Center (aka Freedom Tower) in the distance. The Chrysler Building can also be seen to the southwest. Unfortunately, its view is partially blocked by another building.

Click here for NYC Bus Tour + Top of the Rock tickets

Junior’s

After all this sightseeing and just a quick bite for lunch, you’re sure to be hungry. Head to either 45th street or 49th street for Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery. (The last sight of the day will be Times Square, so the 45th street location is closest to that. But neither is far.)

Junior’s has a bit of something for everyone, from the classic New York pastrami sandwich, to soups and salads, to full entrees like chicken parmesan or fish & chips. There’s really no way to go wrong at this famous NYC deli, so pick what looks good to you! But, make sure you save room for dessert, because Junior’s is known for its delicious cheesecake. Wondering what other food NYC is known for?

I mean, it would be crazy to go to New York City and not eat its most beloved dessert, right? It’s incredible. I prefer the plain cheesecake because you get more of a taste of the actually cheesecake than you do if it’s doused in strawberries or something else. Again, though, it’s really hard to make a wrong choice.

Click Here for the Junior’s Website

Times Square

Now that you’ve satisfied your appetite and warded off any possibility of being hangry, head on over to Times Square. There is always something going on here. You’ll find plenty of buskers, or street performers, doing their thing. We enjoyed several musicians and an incredible acrobatic dance troupe on our recent visit!

Nighttime in Times Square is like nothing else. There are bright lights and advertisements everywhere. Even during COVID, when the city itself wasn’t as busy as normal, this place was packed with people. The ball that is dropped every New Year’s Eve is visible year round, so make sure to find it when you look south.

The best thing about TImes Square, in my opinion, is people-watching. It’s like nowhere else! If you want a photo, do what I did and follow the advice of NYCGo.com and take a photo from the top of the red TKTS stairs.

Head back to your lodgings for a well-deserved night of sleep. Even if you’re not used to sleeping with the sounds of the city outside, hopefully you’re so tired from this amazing day that you sleep soundly!

Day 2

During the second day in the city, I recommend spending some time outdoors, on the High Line and in Central Park.

The High Line

The High Line in New York City
The High Line in New York City

The High Line is a park and walking path built where an elevated railway used to be. It is just under a mile and a half long, and stretches from Hudson Yards on its north end, to Chelsea on the south end. There are 11 entrances, and according to Wikipedia, five of those are accessible to people with disabilities. Obviously if you want to walk the entire High Line, like we did, you should consider starting at one end or another.

Along the way you’ll find art exhibits, vendors with all sorts of merchandise and food, and beautiful plants and flowers. You’ll have great views of the city and its skyscrapers to the east, and of Hudson River and New Jersey to the west. At the north end you’ll also want to view the Vessel, part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, or even visit it if it’s open.

Brunch at Tavern on the Green

After a long walk, you’re sure to be hungry, so it’s time for an amazing! meal at Tavern on the Green. This restaurant is located on the west side of Central Park, and you’ll want to catch a cab to get up there from the High Line. If you’re there on Saturday or Sunday, I highly recommend their amazing brunch! I haven’t been there for lunch, but I’m sure it’s just as good.

You may be familiar with Tavern on the Green, because it has been featured in a number of well-known movies. My husband wanted to go there after seeing it in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, an adorable movie starring Jim Carrey. Arthur and Beaches also showcased the restaurant; for a complete list, check their history page on their website! Give yourself time to enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant and the professionalism of the waitstaff. They have indoor and outdoor seating and both are wonderful.

Visit the Tavern on the Green Website

Central Park

Either before or after your meal, make sure to take in some of the sights of Central Park. There are so many things to see here, but Sheep Meadow and Strawberry Fields are really close. We had time to spare, so we walked further and took in the Shakespeare Garden, Bow Bridge, and Belvedere Castle as well.

Central Park is a great place to take pictures. If you want to photograph the city, there’s lots to see from within the park itself, and also looking across Sheep Meadow toward the skyscrapers. The park has lots of Instagrammable spots too, with the lake and Gapstow Bridge being two popular spots.

You’ll see lots of people taking horse and carriage rides. You can find out more about them here.

If you still have time, the Central Park Zoo is also fun, especially if you have children. They have tons of animals, from penguins to snow leopards! While you won’t find Alex the Lion, you will find a large variety of animals to enjoy.

I really want to recommend a drive through the city, too. My husband is intrepid behind the wheel! We were also there while Broadway was still closed, so while the traffic was thick, it wasn’t as bad as it normally is. If you’re game, it’s a great way to just see a lot of the city at one time…well, at least it is for the passengers. If you’ve got cash to spare, you could do the same thing in a taxi and let the professionals do the driving!

Dinner (with three recommendations)

Dinner for your last night in the city should be memorable! There are three places I have eaten that are incredible, which I’ll recommend here.

The first of these is the Russian Tea Room. Now, I ate there in the year 2000, so I won’t say much about this because it has been so long. But the restaurant itself is an incredible sight. I don’t remember what I ate, but I remember the smooth and delicious vodka. (And perhaps that’s why I don’t remember dinner!) But I do know the food – whatever I had – was delicious. It was the interior of the restaurant itself that I most enjoyed.

This trip, we ate at The Liberty on 35th Street. I thought the food, drinks, and desserts were really well done. A lot of restaurants, The Liberty included, have added sidewalk seating during COVID times. We sat outside in a private little room that was kind of like a tent but not stuffy. Everything we ordered, including the pizza, was delicious. Additionally the waiter was very attentive, and the bill wasn’t that much, considering we were in New York City. So I can recommend this restaurant without hesitation.

Bulgogi at Han Bat in NYC
Bulgogi at Han Bat in NYC

If you’re in the mood for something a little more exotic, I suggest Han Bat, also on 35th Street. This is a Korean restaurant that’s extremely authentic, with a friendliness among the staff that I found really pleasant. Delicious soju (liquor) and incredible food really made it a special meal. Also the portions are really large, so bring your appetite or be prepared to take a doggy bag to go!

2 Days in New York City Itinerary

There you have it! If you want to visit New York City but only have two days, I think this is definitely the way to go! It gives you a little bit of everything – museums, the park, the lights, the skyscrapers, and some delicious food. Two days is hardly enough time to see that much of the city, but this itinerary gives you a wide variety of activities and photo opportunities.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Broadway was still closed because of COVID while we were there. You could easily modify this itinerary to include a show, however. If you’re there on a weekend or Wednesday when they have matinees, simply replace either Central Park or The Met with a show of your choice. To fit one in during the evening, you could forego Times Square (or make it a very short time there) or see a show in place of dinner on day 2.

United States

Cap’n Fish’s Cruises – See Puffins in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

In July of 2021 we had the chance to take the Cap’n Fish’s Cruises boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock Island to see Atlantic puffins. These birds spend most of their lives on the sea, not on land, so the only good chance at seeing them is when they come to land to nest. Each year, they do this on Eastern Egg Rock off the coast of Maine.

While this was a great experience (read on!) I have to tell you how this all came about.

Original Plan – Machias Seal Island

In January of 2021, I was determined to get to Machias Seal Island to see these birds. That’s a different location in Maine. There’s only one boat that can go there, but if you can get on it, the experience is supposed to be amazing. Unlike Eastern Egg Rock, on Machias Seal Island, you can actually land, get out, and photograph the puffins up close, while you’re in a blind.

Needless to say, the entire season generally sells out the day it opens. That’s usually in January, but when I checked, it turned out they were delaying it until March because of the ongoing COVID pandemic. So I set another note on my calendar (with FIVE reminders!) to try in March for a spot.

My hopes weren’t high. All of the tours the previous year had been cancelled because of COVID, and the company was offering those people first chance at the 2021 spots. And I wanted four of them. You can imagine my delight when I heard back that we were offered spots on the boat for July 30!

We began to prepare an entire family vacation around this trip. My husband wanted to see Vermont, and our daughters wanted to see New York City. Our son said he couldn’t take that much time off work, so it was just going to be the four of us. We booked flights and hotels and a rental car and decided to make a huge road trip out of it.

We landed in Vermont on Tuesday, before our puffin trip was scheduled to go on Friday. We spend that evening and the next day enjoying Vermont…AND I DIDN’T CHECK MY EMAIL until late Wednesday night. There, in front of my face, was a note from the captain saying there was a good chance our tour was going to be cancelled due to bad weather coming through AND DID I WANT TO GO ON THE THURSDAY TRIP INSTEAD. Unfortunately, we were exhausted and almost to our hotel in Concord, NH where we had planned to spend the night. The only way to make the Thursday boat trip was to drive all night. We couldn’t swing it.

Change of Plans to Cap’n Fish’s Cruises

Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed! So I hit the internet and discovered we could take a cruise out of Boothbay Harbor to a different nesting location, Eastern Egg Island. It didn’t offer the chance to land, or go into blinds, or see the puffins super close…but it would allow me to see them.

And it wasn’t sold out for the season. In fact, there was plenty of room on the boat for the day after the storm – in other words, 36 hours away, and I could still book. So I did! We then rerouted our road trip. We no longer needed to head as far north as Machiasport. So we went to Augusta, Maine for Thursday evening, then down US-1 to see lighthouses, and Freeport for Friday evening. Then we got up early Saturday morning and drove to Boothbay Harbor. (We actually backtracked about an hour, but we go to see Freeport, which wasn’t on our original road trip schedule. It was darling. Augusta was not, but you can’t win ’em all!)

Parking and Boarding

Once we arrived in Boothbay Harbor, it was easy to find the stand for Cap’n Fish’s Cruises, and parking was available right beside it. Parking wasn’t cheap! But at this point I wasn’t going to get upset about that. (I would be getting a refund from Bold Coast, anyway, and that more than covered this boat trip as well as the parking.) So we pulled in, went to the restroom right there – which was very clean – and then I got in line for the boat. I wanted to make sure I got a seat beside the railing so I could see these darn birds! My family decided to look around the area a bit, so they boarded way after me, but no one gave me any trouble about holding seats for them.

Upper deck of the Cap'n Fish's Cruises boat
Upper deck of the Cap’n Fish’s Cruises boat

The boat has two decks – an open-air one with chairs up top, and a lower enclosed deck. The birds are best seen from the upper deck, so that’s where we went.

Outbound Trip

The trip to Eastern Egg Rock took awhile, but there was beautiful scenery. The route took us through the harbor, where we could see a beautiful church and several historic buildings that had to do with area businesses, mostly the fishing industry. Further out we could see several lighthouses, some on each side of the boat.

Audubon society speaker teaching us about puffins
Audubon society speaker teaching us about puffins

The trip also included a talk by a woman from the local chapter of the Audubon Society. She told us about the different bird species we might see on Eastern Egg Rock, as well as on the trip out. While cruising, we saw the typical gulls, cormorants, and other seabirds that one would expect to see there. But then we spotted a Northern Gannet flying by, which was a nice surprise. I had been chatting with a woman seated behind me, and she had never seen one before. My family members hadn’t either.

And then, we reached it…Eastern Egg Rock.

Eastern Egg Rock

Atlantic puffin with fish
Atlantic puffin with fish

Y’all, I cried when I saw my first puffin. I had thought this whole vacation was going to be a complete bust, once Bold Coast had had to cancel, but it wasn’t. There was one, right there, in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe it.

I don’t know what makes Eastern Egg Rock special as compared to all the other islands nearby, but this is where the puffins come to nest. And boy do they come in numbers! I suspect we saw at least 200 individual puffins. Many of them were in the water just off the island. Some you saw flying by, as with the one in the photo above. Others sat in groups of 10-30 individuals, known as rafts. And a few were visible up on the rocks of the island itself.

A raft of Atlantic puffins, with a black guillemot flying above
A raft of Atlantic puffins, with a black guillemot flying above

In addition to puffins, there were more gulls, cormorants, and even common terns and black guillemots, which I’d never seen anywhere. Birders – well, listers specifically, those who keep lists of species they’ve seen in different places – have a concept known as a “life bird”. This is when you see a species you’ve never seen before, anywhere. For me, the Atlantic puffin and the black guillemot were both life birds. I had seen common terns in England, but never North America, so they were special too.

To offer everyone the best vantage, the captain circled the island once in one direction, and then turned around and circled it again in the other direction. That way, no matter what side you were sitting on, you got to go around the island with it clearly visible to you. Yes, I resisted the temptation to elbow my way to the other side of the deck for the second pass! It was hard, though!

Atlantic puffins on Eastern Egg Rock
Atlantic puffins on Eastern Egg Rock

And get this. My youngest daughter was feeling a little seasick, and decided to go to the lower deck. She saw a puffin right off the stern (back of the boat), very close. She tried to text me to come down, but I was busy “spraying and praying” (meaning I took lots of photos in burst mode, 844 to be exact!) from the upper deck and I missed my chance. I’m really glad she got to see on that close, though.

Trip Back

After the second pass around the island, it was time to head back to the harbor. Since we were heading in the opposite direction, I had the opportunity to take pictures of the lighthouses that had been across the boat from me on the way out.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse
Ram Island Light, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Ram Island Light

And to make things even more special, I got one more life bird when we were almost back to the dock. We passed a group of female eiders, a duck species I’d never seen before. So make that three lifers / life birds for this trip!

One thing I didn’t partake of, but would like to mention, is that the cruise does also sell food and drinks, including adult beverages. I didn’t want to risk an unsteady hand on my camera, so I didn’t try any. But lots of people around me seemed to be enjoying theirs!

I would like to say this quenched my thirst, but these beautiful birds are so captivating. I still want to go to Machias Seal Island. Or Iceland. Or Skomer in Wales. Or back to Bempton Cliffs in Norwich, where they nest, but had already left when I visited there. And of course I want to go out west (Oregon and Alaska) to see the other puffin species! But for 2021, I have to thank Cap’n Fish’s Cruises with all my heart. They saved the most important part of my vacation and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Yes, I highly recommend this tour! Whether you’re an avid birder or just looking for a fun vacation activity, I think this fits both bills. Which made it perfect for our family, too, since I’m the only crazy bird lady that’s a part of our group. In addition to puffins, they also offer whale watching tours. If you want to see puffins, make sure to plan your trip for the right time of year. They only nest between mid-May and mid-August, and your chances to see them are best in the middle part of that range (in case they arrive late or leave early for a given season.)

Check out Cap’n Fish’s Cruises Website to Reserve a Tour

For alternative tours that don’t necessarily involve puffins, you might consider a lighthouse cruise or general scenic cruise of Boothbay Harbor.

New York Travel

The Most Iconic (and Delicious!) New York City Food

When you think of eating out in New York city, what comes to mind? The city is full of delicious options, from Michelin-starred cuisine to street corner hot dogs. New York city food includes everything from all-American favorites to ethnic delights from many other countries. There’s simply so much to choose from that it’s hard to know where to start!

So if you’re planning a visit to New York City, and want to know what to dine upon, keep reading. We have some can’t-miss options to truly make your NYC vacation’s food options as perfect as the rest of your trip.

Pizza

The most popular New York City food has to be thin-sliced pizza!
s My pizza at The Liberty turned out blurry, maybe because I was two vodka mules in…not sure. This is just a stock photo, sorry!

There are certain “food wars” between New York and other cities, but none is more heated than the great pizza debate. New York Pizza is pure heaven – thin but never limp or soggy. Perfectly melted cheese and delicious toppings. Truly, the Big Apple knows how to make a pie! Just do NOT get them started about Chicago deep-dish…if you can even find it here, you’re just missing out on what makes NY pizza special.

Now I’ve had many good slices of pizza, but my obsession with the movie Elf had me wanting to visit the “real Ray’s pizza on 11th”. That took some Googling…as it turns out there are tons of variations of Ray’s Pizza throughout the city, but none with that name on 11th! The reason is that the Ray’s pizza at that location was reopened under the name Roio’s Pizza. Unfortunately, that too, is closed.

So go find you some Ray’s Pizza elsewhere…there are tons of different restaurants using the name. Or try almost any other place. My photo above is from The Liberty, and it was excellent. It would be hard to find a bad slice in the city, unless you’re going to some chain like Pizza Hut. Another great option is Sal and Carmine on the Upper West Side.

Toppings? Keep it simple with the classic extra cheese, or maybe a single topping like pepperoni, so your topping don’t overpower the taste of the pizza itself.

Bagel

My perfectly=-oasted sesame seed bagel at Andrew’s – not sure why they brought jelly. It went to waste!

OK guys, I live in Florida, and we have a lot of residents who relocate here from New York. Many of them are from the city, but no matter where they came from, they all miss one thing – New York City bagels! Apparently there’s something about the water there that makes the bagels taste better. I’m not sure of that, but I do know that you can get an excellent bagel in the city.

The best bagel is boiled before baking. It gives it the classic shiny finish and darker color. (Same with soft pretzels, if you’re curious.) Boiling also helps the bagel keep its shape as the dough cooks.

Top your bagel with plain or flavored cream cheese, or for a true culinary experience, go for the combination of cream cheese, chopped red onions, capers, tomatoes, and lox. If you’re not familiar with it, lox is a deliciously smoky uncooked (but cured) salmon that is incredible!

My favorite place to grab a bagel is Andrew’s Coffee Shop on 7th Avenue between 35th and 36th street.

New York Cheesecake

My cheesecake didn’t last long enough for a photo because I wolfed it down too fast! I hope Junior’s won’t mind my “borrowing” this one from their website.

You know how, when you look at a restaurant menu pretty much anywhere, you’ll often see the cheesecake described as New York Cheesecake? Yep, that’s just how much the city and the dessert go hand-in-hand!

What makes New York cheesecake special, you might ask? I’m happy to answer that! Here’s a few reasons why New York cheesecake is the best:

  • It’s denser than other cheesecake varieties
  • It’s extremely smooth and creamy
  • It’s made with a cream cheese base, not ricotta or another kind of cheese
  • It often has an addition of heavy cream (or sometimes sour cream) and eggs
  • It generally has a rich browned edge around the top, if not the entire top itself, because it’s initially cooked at a high temperature which is then lowered for the remainder of the cooking time
  • It has a graham-cracker crust

Many places in NYC are known for excellent cheesecake, but my favorite one is Junior’s, just off Times Square. It’s in a great location, the food in general is delicious, and they have several varieties of cheesecake to suit any taste. In fact, if you simply don’t like cheesecake, they have other delicious desserts too!

For the purest experience, order the plain cheesecake. You’ll get to understand the nuances of the flavors and texture that make New York cheesecake so extraordinarily delicious. Of course, strawberry-topped, raspberry-swirled, and chocolate throughout are good choices too, but you’ll lose some of the uniqueness of cheesecake among the other flavors.

Hot Dog Stand

New York City hot dog stand

The hot dog stand is the quintessential to-go fast food in New York City. You’ll see them in many TV shows and movies that are set in the city…and on every single corner throughout the Big Apple! Sabrett is one of the most popular brands.

Not into hot dogs? You can get so much more from these street vendors too! Sausages, falafel, dosas, tacos…even breakfast. We grabbed an egg-and- cheese breakfast sandwich at Hudson Yard after walking the High Line on our most recent village. After a 2-mile walk and still another mile to the hotel, it was the PERFECT break.

Residents of New York are often busy with their careers, and tourists are busy trying to pack in as much as they can, so a quick on-the-go meal from the corner vendor fits in perfectly for either group!

Like their cheesecake, New York’s hot dogs are known for a specific style too – simplicity. They are usually topped with only mustard and either onions or sauerkraut. Of course, you’re welcome to customize your New York dog to your heart’s content!

Korean Food (or other international cuisine)

Bulgogi at Han Bat on 35th Street

New York is amazing because of the diversity of the people who call the city home. They come from all walks of life, and nations around the world. So it’s no surprise that you can find delicious ethnic cuisine from almost anywhere. (I had my very first taste of Ethiopian food in NYC back in 1990!) And if you find yourself in Chinatown or Koreatown, you know you’ll find some of the most authentic dishes outside of those actual countries.

Dim Sum is a popular choice, but I decided to include Korean food. On our most recent trip, we visited Han Bat. It’s actually north of Koreatown, on 35th street, but don’t think that makes it any less authentic because you’d be wrong! Among our family we had: yaki mandu (a filled dumpling similar to the Japanese gyoza) to start, plus soju, a Korean alcohol served neat. For entrees we had bibimbap, bulgogi, kimchi chi gae, and gal ghe. It was all incredible!

Bibimbap at Han Bat in New York City

So if there’s a cuisine you’ve never tried, but want to give it a whirl, look for it in New York City. You’d be hard pressed not to find whatever you wanted. And if you’re not sure what might be good, visit Han Bat and order the bulgogi. It’s an easy dish to start with if you’ve never tried Korean food before, as it’s a marinated barbeque-like beef.

New York City Good Choices

There you have it! Of course, you could eat out for every meal and never exhaust your options for New York City food. But if you’re looking for the quintessential dining experience that only New York City can offer, this is a great list to start.

I’m sure I’ve missed some. What’s your favorite NYC dish? (I’m betting the first comment will be “pastrami”!) Drop a note and let me know your recommendations for either New York City food or restaurants you like.test

Travel Tips

Traveling During COVID – 10 Rules to Live By

Family vacations can be taxing on even the best of us. Airline delays, aggravated travelers, hotel accommodations not exactly as you saw in the pictures, activity arrangements not what you expected. These are just a few of the “wrenches” that can get thrown into what would otherwise be a smooth-running vacation engine. Traveling during COVID is even harder, because of the extra-stringent regulations and everyone’s stress levels being higher.

Traveling During COVID

Acknowledging Reality – Dealing with Pandemic Ups and Downs

Like many families during COVID , we’ve dealt with isolation, lockdowns, mask mandates, remote school, being nervous about the person who just coughed. Those feelings of loneliness and pensiveness have left many of us raw and maybe a bit cagey (or a good bit more in cases that make the news). 

Our family has limited our travel to no more than a few hours traveling by car, mostly day trips and only to see family members until now. We, like many families have had our share (and what feels like maybe more than) of highs and lows during these tumultuous times. 

My father turned 80 this year, one of my younger sisters passed away, my youngest sister had her first child, and close family and friends have gotten sick. Some, but not all, recovered. In my family, we have a saying, “it is what it is”. It’s simply meant to acknowledge that sometimes the only way OUT of something is through it. COVID has proven itself to be the kind of problem that will simply not allow us to “go around it”. 

So, if we have to go through this, why can’t we find a way to do so safely? My family recently did so, and I want to share that experience with you here. 

The Adventure STARTS!

We’re Floridians, right now in the Sunshine State (summer 2021), COVID is blowing up! So, a vacation outside of Florida looked like a pretty good move. My wife, an avid birder, had planned a trip last year to see puffins in Maine last summer, a once in a lifetime type of trip for many birders. Then COVID hit, no puffins in 2020. 

We all understood, but that didn’t stop the disappointment. We resolved THIS year would be different. I like birds well enough, but out two teenaged daughters were less than enthused at the prospect of a birding vacation. We decided to give everyone a little something on this trip. We compromised on puffins for my wife, and New York City for my girls! I get to drive…See how that works? Something for everyone! (wink). 

With all this in mind, let’s jump into our trip and starting exploring my Top 10 Rules for Traveling During COVID to hopefully help you enjoy your trip safely.

1. What’s your plan? 

Don’t tell me you don’t have a plan, no one is that carefree during COVID. Our plan was to fly to Vermont, drive through the state on our way to Maine and a wonderful boat trip to a solitary island where puffins are known to be nesting in the summer months, followed by a leisurely drive through New Hampshire and Connecticut on our way to the Big Apple and the final few days of our trip before returning to Florida. 

We felt this approach allowed us to minimize our exposure, or at least would allow us to control how much and when we were exposed. Our goal to limit our exposure was to use masks, sanitizer and watch our social distancing, but we wanted to visit Times Square, take pictures from the top of Rockefeller Center, and take a half day boat trip to see puffins. We knew there could be exposure, but we felt comfortable with our plan. 

Plans are great, put them in place. Once you do get ready for what comes next, because plans don’t usually come off without issues cropping up, and our vacation was no different. 

2. Know the rules and abide by them

I’m not going to debate vaccines and masks. We all have opinions on that. My point is that you need to know the rules for your trip location, so you can prepare your whole family for what they are going to need to do. 

Will you need to quarantine when you arrive? Provide proof of vaccination or negative tests? Do you the type of mask they want you to use? Understand mask wearing/removal rules for eating/drinking, etc. In short, just follow the rules where you are, because YOU are the visitor!

Don’t go to Vermont and run around screaming about anti-vaccinations and no mask mandates, the good people of VT don’t want to hear it from you. Vermont, a highly vaccinated state (currently over 75% of residents) was generally very lax on these types of rules. But while we were in NYC, they announced a return to mask mandates for indoor activities, so knowing the rules ahead of time is very important.

3. Be kind to others AND yourself

Airline travel during the time of COVID can be quite a treat. We put a man on the moon and still haven’t figured out how to make boarding a plane easier. It’s our fault of course. Not ALL of us but you know the type…those crowding the gate before their boarding group is called, screaming kids (been there, I feel for you), screaming parents (…the bar is over there…), it can get testy. In truth, most folks are trying to abide by the rules, give each other time and space and hopefully avoid being on one of those flights where you make the evening news for all the wrong reasons! 

I’m a big guy, 6’3”, 250 pounds. You see me walking down the aisle on your plane trip, you start praying out loud that I’m not your middle seat. I wasn’t. When air travel started back up last year, there were socially distance seating arrangements, lots of space. Those days are gone. We’re back to packing them in like sardines now, which can be very stressful for families, especially if you’re not able to sit together. 

A side note on plane travel today!

Quick side note on seatbacks and tray tables – if you REALLY need to put your seatback, then do it, ok, but if you can live without it, then do so. Why? Because we all want to try and be as comfortable as possible in a situation where there is no way to socially distance yourself or your loved ones and you’re sitting in a tube of re-circulating air for 2-3 hours as you fly to a crowded airport, all while being expected to wear a mask! 

Comfort is a strange beast, if you’re an arm rest, elbow hog, try, just try and sit a little more narrowly. If the flight attendant asks you to put your seat up, do it, if she doesn’t ask you to and the pilot announced it, DO IT! My wife will thank you!

Hotel check in

4. A light heart and a good sense of humor are REQUIRED

My youngest, at 14, has been on two flights in her life so she spent more time freaking out about takeoffs than air quality. Her sister and I were not terribly helpful with comments like, “what is that metal thing hanging off the wing” or “is it supposed to make that noise?”

I get it…we can be bad! But those comments actually help her, because she knows we’re saying it to make her laugh and trying to put her at ease. The one thing we have in abundance in our family is humor. We used it readily to get through hectic situations.

Whether it’s making sure we stopped in Waterbury, VT to visit the Ben & Jerry’s Graveyard (had to get a pic with SNL favorite flavor, Schweddy Balls) or my daughter losing her crocs after swimming at the Mad River and resorting to wearing my size 14 sneakers to climb around the hills near Sugarbrush Farm, we find humor a staple to get us through difficult times.

Just use what you have to get yourselves SAFELY through your trip.

5. When the wheels come off…Improvise

Earlier, I mentioned my wife is a birder, so the WHOLE point of this trip was to see puffins in Maine. I had said before the trip, “as long as we see puffins, everything else is gravy”…are you one of those people that should NEVER say something like that aloud? Like me…

We were halfway through Vermont on Wednesday heading to New Hampshire when my wife got the note that our puffin trip *may* be canceled on Friday. The weather report was not promising, but if we could make it to Maine tomorrow morning, we could go. That wasn’t an option, so our whole trip was thrown into a holding pattern. 

Sitting in Concord, New Hampshire, on the steps of the State House, we wondered whether we should drive any further north if we were not going to get puffins at all? 

Dinner at the Barley House, recommended by the folks at Centennial Hotel, didn’t seem to help our trip appetites, as we were scrambling to find a reason to bother to go to Maine at all now. Susan was upset, I was mad, the girls were not much concerned either way. After getting some eats (and a few drinks) is us, we resolved that the best course of action was to go to Maine anyways. 

6. Don’t miss out even when you do

We figured 1) give the weather a chance to clear and perhaps the captain goes ahead, but more importantly, 2) we were within spitting distance of a number of other great opportunities to visit in Maine, so why not take advantage? 

Lemons to lemonade and all that, we decided to switch up and drive to Augusta, ME the next day, stopping to see lighthouses along the way. The boat captain, to his credit, let us know early the next day that the trip would be cancelled. That turned a trip up the coast to Machiasport into a leisurely drive down the coastal highway to experience Maine as best we could. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip!

Driving through Camden, on the day of the Camden Cup, stopping at numerous little hamlets along the way to see the local landscapes turned an otherwise miserable miss into a salvageable day. But my wife was not going to give up that easily. She managed to find a place in Boothbay Harbor called Cap’n Fish’s, who had a boat trip that would take us out near an island, not land on it, but at least SEE these little bird beauties. Only down side, it was 1.5 hour driving in the wrong direction. So, what do you do? You drive an 1.5 hour and do it happily because sometimes the best plans are the ones that get messed up on the way to a better time! 

Family road trip

7. Setting expectations

On our first morning in NYC, I had committed the cardinal sin of family travel: failing to set expectations for the day with everyone the night before. I assumed everyone would want to bolt out of bed and get busy in NYC, not so much with my girls. Traveling always has expectations and the more family members you have the more divergent those expectations can become.

After a rocky start, we re-grouped, made our way to the MET, dealt with child blisters (bring a first-aid kit, believe me you do not want to have to buy bandaids in NYC). Made it to the Fashion Institute of Technology for my oldest to visit, Rockefeller Center for my youngest and Times Square for everyone!

All in all, NYC is still there and coming back, but everyone said the crowds were not back yet. Personally, I’ll take this version of NYC! I could drive in the city, we took the subway (first time for everyone), and we enjoyed lively conversations with everyone we encountered. 

Bottom line, set those expectations, so you and your family know what to expect. If you want to get an early start, be sure everyone in your party knows what to expect. If you are a morning shower person then give yourself extra time to get up and get going. 

8. On the way to where you’re going, take a break

You just got done with a multi-stop flight in the age of COVID. Take a break. Imbibe as needed but remain responsible. The word of the day for rule 5 is “decompress”. Stress occurs these days when we are just sitting somewhere minding out own business. Even if you’re vaccinated, none of these shots are 100% effective so we know the underlying stress of infection and so on weighs. Decompressing is not an option; it’s a requirement. 

Most of the spots we hit were weather-friendly, and even the light rain in VT was enjoyable! Because being outside in Vermont is better than no vacation at all! You can react positively or negatively to stimuli, just remember, decompressing isn’t just for the adults, because the kids need a break too! 

Vermont is famous for its covered bridges. We visited a few, and in between those stops, we dipped our feet in the Mad River, saw a Farmer’s Market in the middle of Woodstock, and took a tour of the maple and cheese farm called Sugarbush Farm. We also saw glassblowing in Simon Pierce’s shop and took pictures of the Quechee Gorge. All in all, a very relaxing 8 hours in the van! Stopping as we wanted to and enjoying ourselves the whole way!

9. Go slow

We are not ALL back to 100%, yet. Restaurants, bars, stores all are dealing with lack of employees, COVID changing environments in their stores, disagreeable customers. We are all trying to get through this. So, give the other person a break. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. A kind word does a soul good. Yours and theirs. We found on this trip especially, that most vendors are happy to have folks visiting again and are thrilled to share their own experiences and insights.

The one thing I found throughout this trip is that people WANT (and NEED) to re-engage with each other. There were so many examples of complete strangers striking up conversations, participating with one another where we maybe didn’t before COVID. Humans obviously have a deep desire to interact, and as we re-emerge from our COVID cocoons, you can see it on the faces of those we speak with. The casual conversations that last a bit longer because, Lord, how we miss that connection with one another.

Just remember, everyone is moving at their pace, which may not be YOUR pace, but on this trip, no matter where we were, the feeling was uniform and deep! We got this! 

10. You get more with honey than vinegar

We covered 1374 miles in that rental van across 6 states in 8 days. Our wait staff, cab drivers, ticket takers, vendors or other visitors were all wonderful. Not because we were just fortunate, but rather I found that it was because we struck up conversations with them, asked them how they were doing, it was like being with family and friends rather than strangers. We’ve all been dealing with COVID, now we want to get beyond it. For some, being able to just talk to someone is food for their souls!

Yours too, perhaps!! 

Throughout this trip, we made sure to engage with each and every caregiver we encountered and maybe that’s why we enjoyed our time together. I call them all caregivers because right now, in this moment, that’s what we ALL are. Whether we give good or bad care, depends greatly on our approach.

Just remember…Breathe…We (and that includes you too) got this! 

A few personal notes

Kiron at Le Soleil, our hotel in NYC, you are the man! If you want to enjoy your time in NYC a good concierge is the key. The hotel was quiet (even for NYC), family-friendly and Kiron, I seriously don’t know how he did it, perhaps he has a twin, because no one could be in that many places at once!

To the wonderful staff at Cap’n Fish’s, you made my wife’s dream of puffins happen. I salute you! 

To the great folks at Han Bat on 35th St, Kamsahamnida! The food was phenomenal! 

New York Travel

10 Incredible Things to Do in New York City

New York City is one destination where you’ll never get bored! In fact, there are so many things to do in New York City that it’s hard to decide what you want to see. Here are some of our favorite NYC attractions. Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Big Apple, or you’ve been several times before, there’s always something new to see. Here are a few amazing places to visit in this popular city.

If you’re looking for a great place to stay during your NYC trip, I highly recommend The Executive Hotel Le Soleil. It’s perfectly located on 36th Street between 5th and 6th avenues. There are great places to eat nearby, and some rooms have a view of the Empire State Building just two blocks over. It’s walking distance from the High Line (though it’s a decently long walk!) and close to several amazing restaurants like The Liberty and Han Bat. And we walked back from Times Square to the hotel with no problems. It’s pretty much perfect.

1. The Empire State Building

Empire State Building and the NYC Skyline
Empire State Building and the NYC Skyline, taken from Top of the Rock

This iconic building defines New York City. The Empire State Building has some great features and has been a significant symbol towering the New York sky for a long time now. The Empire State Building has also featured in numerous movies. You can catch a complete panoramic view of the city from observation deck at the top of the Empire State Building.

Another great place to see the skyline from a high vantage point is at Rockefeller Center, or “Top of the Rock”. If you choose this option instead, you can actually get a phone of the skyline that includes the Empire State Building. It’s a great way to see how dominant a building it truly is.

Either location is a great way to see NYC from a bird’s eye view.

Click here to purchase Empire State Building tickets.

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art – Front Steps and Water Fountain

Recognized as one of the top art museums in the world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has displays of art from around the world, from Africa to Oceania, ancient Egypt to Europe, and of course, American art as well. It would take many days to really see all of the displays and pieces available at the Met.

Temple of Dendur at the Met
Temple of Dendur

The Egyptian gallery features the Temple of Dendur, the only intact Egyptian temple in the western hemisphere. It was build around 15 BC by Petronius and commission by Augustus, and dedicated to the gods Isis and Osiris. One long wall in the gallery features a copy of the Book of the Dead in beautiful calligraphy. Just don’t read it aloud 🙂

You must not read from the book, quote from The Mummy
GIF via tenor.com

I most enjoyed the medieval armor collection, which actually contains armor worn by King Henry VIII of England. Of course, I would have preferred Richard the Lionheart, but beggars mustn’t be choosers…

In the American gallery, you’ll find many paintings relating to the history of the United States, including the famous – and HUGE – painting of George Washington Crossing the Delaware. There are also paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, Winslow Homer, and many others. Down half a level you can find a stained glass trio by Frank Lloyd Wright.

In the European gallery there are paintings by Van Gogh, George Seurat, Jan van Eyck, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and many others.

And of course there are visiting exhibits, such as currently The New Woman Behind the Camera and Alex da Corte’s As Long as the Sun Lasts.

To buy tickets for The Met, click here.

3. Ellis Island

If you’re interested in the history of New York City, immigration, and genealogy, you will likely enjoy visiting Ellis Island. You get there by taking a free ferry to and from the island. The same ferry (and same ticket) can take you to both Ellis Island and the nearby Status of Liberty.

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum also offers free guided tours for those interested. Things to see include:

  • The Great Hall, an immense room where immigrants were processed with the facility operated;
  • The Baggage Room, where immigrants’ belongings were stored
  • A database for researching your family members’ arrival, if it pertains to you
  • The Statue of Liberty, and Liberty Island (where it stands) from the window where people coming to America would have seen it

Keep in mind that the ferry can be very crowded and have long lines, so arrive early for the best experience. You’ll also have to go undergo strong security measures (similar to airport security) before you can board.

Ellis Island and Ferry Tickets can be purchased here.

4. Central Park

Bow Bridge in Central Park, New York City Things to Do
Bow Bridge in Central Park

Central Park is situated in the heart of New York City and is considered a wonderful place to visit in case you are an admirer of nature. You can also take advantage of the free tour offered by the Central Park Conservancy. Central Park is said to comprise of about 843-acre land which includes “View from the Past,” a brief look at the accomplishments of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux the designers of Central Park; “A Road Once Traveled,” an insight at American Revolution and War of 1812 battles sites; and “Amble Through the Ramble” and a hike through 38-acres of woodland.

Personally, I just enjoy watching the people of New York, and those who visit, go about their lives. We watched a softball game, people doing tai chi (I think!), people playing with dogs, children on the playgrounds, and much more.

There are many sights to see in Central Park, including the carousel, Belvedere Castle, and Bow Bridge. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, mentioned above, is also in Central Park, on the east side.

Lunch or brunch at Tavern on the Green is a must-do! This iconic restaurant has been featured in a number of movies, such as Arthur (and its sequel), Ghostbusters, Beaches, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and the one that sparked my husband’s desire to dine there: Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Make Tavern on the Green Reservations on their website, here

5. Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is said to be the tallest standing structure ever since its inception in the year 1883 to 1931 when the Empire State Building. The entire Manhattan skyline from Wall Street to the Upper East Side can be viewed by taking a walk on the pedestrian walkway. The walkway is around 1.1 miles, so you may want to only do it one directly.

If you end up on the Brooklyn side, you can easily meander into the DUMBO neighborhood. DUMBO stands for “Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass”. There are great shops, restaurants, and galleries in this area, and if you go to Washington Street, you can take your own version of the iconic photograph of the Manhattan Bridge with the Empire State Building framed by the arches.

6. Times Square

Times Square is considered to be one of New York City’s iconic places as the place is always in a buzz with people from all walks of life. You will not feel bored as there are numerous theaters at Broadway and other buildings illuminated with animated neon and LED signs. Building owners get to splash their illuminated signs to the fullest as Times Square is the only neighborhood in New York City with zoning ordinances.

There’s a good change you’ll find buskers, or street performers, throughout Times Square. Last time we visited, we enjoyed an acrobatic dance troupe and an amazing drummer who didn’t have any hands but did have some incredible talent! While you’re there stop by Junior’s and pick up a delicious slice of cheesecake!

View of Central Park from Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center)

7. Rockefeller Center

Every year Christmas time, The Rockefeller Center will erect the largest Christmas tree in the world. Its ice skating rink is open from mid-November until mid-January. I’ve actually skated there, although it was many many years ago! My daughter (who actually can ice skate, unlike my bumbling attempts) really wants to go during winter so she can do it as well.

Rockefeller Center also houses the world famous NBC TV studio and store. But possibly the biggest attraction is “Top of the Rock”, where you can go to the very top of the building and see the New York City skyline from an eagle’s view! I As I mentioned above, I like this better than the view from the Empire State Building, because here you can actually see the Empire State Building.

When I visited recently, Broadway shows were still not operating due to the quarantine, so the city was less crowded than normal. We got VIP passes to visit Top of the Rock, but it really wasn’t necessary. If you go after the shows open back up, I would definitely recommend it. The VIP passes let you skip the line and go straight to the top. They also let you go anytime during the day that you want, rather than a specific timeframe. (It just has to be the day that you reserved.)

Once you’re at the top, there’s no limit on how long you can stay. We got there about 45 minutes before sunset, and stayed until most of the lights were up. So we got a lot of different views and photos. Note that you can only see a very small part of Times Square from here, but the part you can see does include the ball that they “drop” every New Year’s Eve.

Reserve Your Tickets for Top of the Rock Here

8. Walk the High Line

The High Line, New York City
The High Line, New York City

The High Line park is a fairly recent addition to the list of things to do in New York City, as the park didn’t begin undergoing construction until 2006, and opened in phases between 2009 and 2019, if you include the spur. It’s build where there previously was a spur of the New York Central Railroad.

The High Line is just under 1.5 miles long, and you can enter at a number of different locations. We recently visited for the first time, and entered where Google Maps told us – smack dab in the middle. So we walked the lower half, turned around at the Whitney, got a coffee and some souvenir framed prints, then walked all the way to the top, where The Vessel is. The entire park is just beautiful, with well-maintained greenery areas and amazing artwork, some of which is interactive.

It wasn’t super crowded, but you do need to listen out for runners coming up behind you! In fact, it made me wish I was still a runner, because that would have been a fun place for a morning run.

9. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum

One World Trade Center aka Freedom Tower
One World Trade Center aka Freedom Tower

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a beautiful remembrance of one of the most horrifying events in United States history. The memorial is located where the original World Trade Center stood in the middle of the New York Financial District. It consists of two reflecting pools, one at the location of each of the two original towers. It remembers not just the World Trade Center attacks and victims, but also those of the two additional flights that flew into the Pentagon, and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, on that fateful day of September 11, 2001. They also represent the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

The memorial’s architect says the pools represent “absence made visible”. Water flows into voids in the middle of each pool, continuously – they can never be filled. They are the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. The memorial is completely free to visit, and is open to the public at all times.

The museum is open five days a week, and it does require purchase of tickets. At the time of this writing, admission is $15-26. There is a museum tour available for an additional fee. A few parts of it are currently (autumn 2021) closed for health and safety reasons; make sure to check their website for more details on closures.

Much of the museum is family-friendly, but keep in mind the age of your children and the violence inherent in the history of the attack. Particularly gruesome exhibits are clearly marked and not visible to those who choose not to see.

While you’re in the area, make sure to visit One World Tower and its observatory, which is in the same 16-acre complex. It stands on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center, a smaller building that was also destroyed as part of the 9-11 attacks, when the North Tower collapse ruined much (but not all) of this building as well. The new One World Tower, known previously as Freedom Tower, is currently the tallest building in the United States (indeed, the entire Western hemisphere) and the sixth tallest building in the world.

Get tickets to the museum here.

10. American Museum of Natural History

Last but not least – as these are in no particular order – is the American Museum of Natural History. Anyone who has seen the Night at the Museum movie franchise is intimately familiar with this museum, because that’s where the movies are primarily set! Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History looks like a castle! And, it’s on he United States National Register of Historic Places.

The museum features permanent and travelling exhibits that relate to the history of our natural world. There are sections for birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, butterflies, gems and minerals, and even meteorites! It also focuses on human history and therefore has collections of fossils and other archeological artifacts that relate to human civilizations. In addition to the exhibits, there is also a research library that’s open to the public, and the Hayden Planetarium within the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

The famous equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt currently sits at the Central Park West entry. This was the one that comes to life in the Night at the Museum movies. However, there are significant cultural reasons why the statue is controversial, and the city and museum are currently planning to relocate it elsewhere. Ever wondered why Teddy Roosevelt graces the entrance? One reason is because his father was a founding member of the museum! The museum itself has been quoted as saying it objects to the statue but not the former President. Click here for more information about the statue and its relocation.

To purchase tickets for the American Museum of Natural History, click here.


Whether you have time to do one or do them all, this list of things to do in New York City was designed to help you have a great NYC vacation. The memories you make in New York are sure to last a lifetime, because the Big Apple is truly unlike any other place on earth.

Beaches of the World Featured Florida Travel

4-day Florida Keys Itinerary

If you’ve never been to the Florida Keys, you’re in for a treat. The sunshine and blue ocean water is breathtakingly beautiful. The laid-back lifestyle of tourists and locals alike contribute to a relaxed vacation that’s anything but boring. This sample Florida Keys itinerary will provide you with an exciting and enjoyable vacation, and allow you to see much of what makes the Keys so special.

Marathon, Florida is one of the more convenient places to stay if you want to see a lot of the Florida Keys in a single trip. It’s located in the middle keys, just before you cross the 7-Mile Bridge.

There are lots of fun things to do and restaurants to try in Marathon itself, and its central location makes it convenient for half-day or full-day trips to others parts of the Keys. This Florida Keys itinerary assumes you will be staying in the central Keys, but it’s easy to adjust it if you want to stay further north or south. Just expect that on certain days you’ll be doing more driving.

This also assumes you have access to a car and will be driving down and back up from Miami.

Day 1: Drive Down from Miami to Marathon

Day 1 will give you your first glimpse of what makes the Florida Keys so amazing – the ocean. You’ve probably seen the ocean before, but perhaps never like this. In the keys, the water is incredibly blue. Beds of seagrass make darker areas, and lighter spots are often sandbars. The variation in colors is simply amazing.

The first day will include a good bit of time in the car, but it’s not too bad as long as you avoid Miami rush hour traffic. When you drive from Miami, you’ll head southwest to Florida City, the last real location on the Florida mainland before you get into the Keys. If you have time, Florida City is pretty fun too. Take time to stop by Robert is Here, which is the craziest “fruit stand” you’ll ever see in your life.

After that it’s just a short drive into the Keys. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the road barricades that are painted light blue…I always think they look like an old-fashioned waterslide. And just like that, you’re in Key Largo!

Harriett’s

Now I do like Key Largo; John Pennecamp Coral State Park is especially nice for kayaking, snorkeling, etc. However, we’ll leave Pennecamp out of this schedule because there’s so much more to see in the Keys.

Keep driving through Key Largo until you see a bright yellow building on the side of the road. You’ve reached Harriett’s! If you’re hungry, stop for a meal, but if not, at least pull in and get some muffins to go. You will not regret this, ever; their muffins are amazing!

Florida Keys Brewing Company, Islamorada
Florida Keys Brewing Company, Islamorada

Florida Keys Brewing Company

After Harriet’s, continue on to Islamorada. If you’re a beer drinker like I am, you’ll want to make a stop at the Florida Keys Brewing Company in Islamorada. They create some excellent brews; I’m a particular fan of their Weedline Wheat, Tripel Tail, and Sunsessional IPA.

The brewery has this gorgeous sitting area outside, full of tropical plants and brightly-painted tables and chairs. It has a great beachy feel. Inside, everything is tie-dyed, from their merchandise to their epoxy bar top. I also have found their bartenders / cicerones to be knowledgeable and friendly.

Robbie’s of Islamorada

Pelicans and Tarpon at Robbie's
Pelicans and Tarpon at Robbie’s

Next stop: the iconic Robbie’s of Islamorada. You’ll find this on the right side just past the Indian Key Channel bridge. Robbie’s is best known for its tarpon feeding docks. For a small entrance fee, you can walk out onto the docks, where squares in the middle are open except for netting, and the tarpon swim up to be fed.

If you want to feed them yourself, you can also purchase some food for them. I just enjoyed watching other people do it. There are lots of pelicans who come in to try and steal some of the food too. Even though the staff discourages them, they’re also a lot of fun to watch.

If you decide to stay in the area, there’s really a lot more to do at Robbie’s. You can sit on the beach, rent kayaks, go fishing, grab a drink or two at the bar, or eat a meal at the Hungry Tarpon. There are also lots of little stands with cute souvenirs to purchase and bring home.

Hotel Check-in

By this point you’re probably exhausted from all of this fun you’ve been having! So hop in the car and keep going until you get to Marathon. Its about 30 more minute of driving time. Marathon has lots of little hotels and AirBnbs. Last time there we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, and it was fine. Nothing amazing, but certain met expectations. (Usually we rent a home on nearby Big Pine Key, but COVID made that impossible this time.)

If you want a very quick dinner, there are a few fast food places. For real restaurants in the area, check out my restaurant guide to Marathon, FL.

Day 2: Beach and Boats

Most people who visit the Keys want to spend time on the beach or on the water, and this day will accommodate both. If you’re looking for fun and sun, both on and beside the water, then this may be your perfect day!

Sombrero Beach, Marathon
Sombrero Beach, Marathon

Sombrero Beach

There are a number of beautiful beaches nearby. The prettiest one, by far, is Sombrero Beach. It is moderately crowded in the spring; I haven’t been in the summer so I’m not sure about that. But I’ve never had trouble parking, even if I did have to loop around 2-3 times.

There’s no entry cost or parking fees at Sombrero Beach, and the beach is both family- and dog-friendly. There are pavilions with grills if you’re inclined toward a cookout. To reserve a pavilion, visit the City’s website.

As you sit on the beach, look toward the southeast and you’ll see the Sombrero Key Lighthouse in the distance. The only other way to visit this lighthouse is by taking a boat out to the nearby area. The lighthouse itself is not open to the public.

Rent a Jet Ski, Kayak, or Take a Boat Cruise

After a day at the beach, you may want to relax at your hotel or a local bar before you hit the water yourself. (Just be sure not to drink if you’re going to pilot a craft yourself!) For me, an hour back at the hotel was a nice way to get out of the sun and to rest before going out again for some time on the water. And the late afternoon or evening is the perfect time to be on the water. There is less glare to bother your eyes, and a lower (but not insignificant) change of sunburn.

Here, there are options for many tastes:

  1. Rent jet skis – A jet ski tour is lots of fun if you’re into speed and excitement. If you take the same route we did, you’ll get to ride around the island of Marathon and even under the Seven Mile Bridge! Now, in my experience, a jet ski “tour” isn’t really a tour, it’s more of a race… we were expected to go as fast as the jet skis allowed for the first half of the tour. It wasn’t really my thing, but my teenage daughter loved it and my husband did too.
  2. Rent kayaks – Next time, this is what we’ll do, because I will insist on something slower and more relaxing! If that’s your style too, a kayak sunset tour will give you beautiful views of the sun setting over the water, with a little less adrenaline (or in my case, panic) than you get on the jet skis.
  3. Sunset cruise – If you prefer to let someone else do the work, join a sunset cruise. You can go further out into the water, and many offer drinks as well. A rum runner on a beautiful boat is a great way to end the day!

Dinner Out in Marathon

After this day, you’re sure to be tired! If you don’t want to wait at a restaurant for a table, this would be a good evening to try Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar, one of the few places that actually accepts reservations. So make that reservation in advance so you can relax and enjoy dinner with less of a wait. If you don’t mind waiting, then I would try Burdine’s or Island Fish Co. All three options provide excellent meals!

Day 3: Key West

Day 3 of this Florida Keys Itinerary puts you back on land. And get excited, because this is the day to see what Key West has to offer. If you’re staying on Marathon, it’s just slightly over an hour’s drive to the southernmost city of Key West, a town rich with character and history.

Getting Around Key West

There’s a lot to see in Key West, so be prepared for some walking. Most of the tourist sights are in Old Town, on the west side of the island. It’s about a 2 mile by 2 mile area, so it’s not unfeasible to walk among most of the places. If walking isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are other options!

  1. Driving: Of course, you can drive to different places, but parking can be difficult during the busy months, and expensive too.
  2. Rent Bicycles or Mopeds: It’s quite popular to rent bicycles or mopeds, and you’ll find it easier to park those when you want to go into an attraction.
  3. Trolley: You can purchase a day pass to use the trolleys, which have different stops around the island. When you choose a trolley, make sure it goes near the places you want to visit.
  4. Hire a Rickshaw: Key West has people who offer bicycle-powered rickshaws, You can rent them like you do a taxi, to take you from one location to the next. This can also be a good filler if you use a trolley but find it doesn’t go to a certain location.
  5. Duval Loop Bus: This is a free bus that has 16 stops in popular locations. It’s probably your cheapest option, assuming you want to stay in the area of town it serves. Find out more here.

Key West Sightseeing

Hemingway Cat
Hemingway Cat

There are so many things to see in Key West! Animal lovers will enjoy Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden, which is a parrot sanctuary. It offers education and enrichment activities. Or check out the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which has butterfly species from all over the world.

History and literature buffs should visit The Hemingway House, which is really just amazing even if you couldn’t give a whit about Ernest Hemingway. The house and grounds are beautiful, and everywhere you’ll see the Hemingway cats – descendants of Papa Hemingway’s own pets – about half of which have a condition called polydactyly, meaning they have extra toes.

Grab a bite and a drink at one (or more!) of the historical Key West pubs: Sloppy Joe’s Bar, Captain Tony’s Saloon, or Hog’s Breath Saloon. Check out my Instagram post here for more about each one.

And of course, get your picture taken at the Southernmost Point marker, at the corner of South and Whitehead streets. There will probably be a line of people waiting to do the same, so give yourself some extra time if you want to do this.

Sunset at Mallory Square, Key West
Sunset at Mallory Square, Key West

Finish the day by watching the sun set from Mallory Square, the iconic location to see a Key West sunset. Or to avoid those crowds, a sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor Sate Park is just as splendid.

Other attractions include Harry Truman’s “Little White House”, Fort Zachary Taylor (the actual fort as well as the surrounding state park), the Key West Aquarium, and the Key West Lighthouse, and the Key West Cemetery, which is known for tombstones with quirky engravings such as “I told you I was sick”!

Dinner in Key West

If you decide to stay for dinner, there are many options to choose from. Blue Heaven and Louie’s Backyard are two of my favorites. Both are well-known and popular, so try to get an advance reservation if you want to dine there.

Day 4: Big Pine Key, No Name Pub, and Saying Goodbye

For the purposes of this Florida Keys itinerary, we’re assuming 4 days including drive time to and from Miami. So day 4 is the day to say goodbye to the keys, but not before you spend some time on my favorite island, the laid-back town of Big Pine Key.

Approach to the Old 7 Mile Bridge
Approach to the Old 7 Mile Bridge

Walk the Old 7-Mile Bridge

A drive from Marathon to Big Pine Key will take you just under 30 minutes. It’s in the wrong direction if you’re leaving the Keys, but trust me, it’s worth it. Just after you cross over the 7-Mile Bridge, take a right into the parking lot. From there, you can walk part of the old 7-Mile Bridge, which will give you a beautiful birds-eye view of the bay.

When we walked it, we saw rays (not sure if they were sting rays or another species), many kinds of fish, a huge starfish, and even a cormorant, a type of bird that swims underwater and catches fish. Because the water is so clear, it was easy to watch the underwater species even though we were pretty high above them.

After walking the old bridge, continue southwest to Big Pine Key. This island is known for one thing, and that’s the Key deer!

Key Deer on Big Pine Key
Key Deer on Big Pine Key

Hang Out with the Key Deer

Key deer are a subspecies of the white-tailed deer found over most of the United States, but they’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That’s because they are the smallest subspecies, about the size of a medium-to-large dog! These beautiful creatures will charm the pants off of you, because they are just that cute! They tend to be unafraid of humans, because people tend to feed them – but please don’t. It’s illegal. However, you can take pictures of them, and sometimes with them, since they will generally come right up to you.

If you’re visiting during fall or early winter, you might even arrive in time for the rut. This is when the males compete with each other for the right to breed with the females. Imagine massive deer fighting each other with their huge antlers…and then miniaturize it! But for their size, they are no less fierce. The females stay pregnant for about 200 days, so if you visit in April, May, or June, you may even see spotted fawn!

One other thing to note: please drive carefully! Keep an eye on the road, and don’t go over the speed limit. Most key deer deaths occur when they are hit by cars, so be careful and don’t cause the death of one of these beautiful creatures. At night, slow down even further, because like all other deer, they will sometimes bolt out into the road.

Just drive around the island and you’re sure to spot one or more deer. Pull over anywhere that looks safe – a church or park parking lot is usually a good choice. Try to be respectful and don’t go into the locals’ yards to see deer. You’re sure to find them in a public location that won’t require you to trespass.

No Name Pub
No Name Pub

Lunch at No Name Pub

If you have trouble finding the deer, head to No Name Pub, because you’ll almost always find some there. Yep, that’s the name – and it’s name after the nearby island of No Name Key, which can be only reached by bridge from Big Pine Key. (Or by boat.) They have a good-sized parking lot, or you can park near the bridge to No Name Key itself. The pub is actually on Big Pine Key, however, and you’ll find it before the bridge to the island of the same name.

Dollar bills on the ceiling at No Name Pub
Dollar bills on the ceiling at No Name Pub

If you have time, grab lunch while you’re at No Name Pub. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, but to eat outside you’ll need to go through the interior. And the first thing you will notice is that the walls and ceiling are literally covered with one-dollar bills. Reports say that it’s over $90,000 taped up inside! They also offer pretty good pub food and a decent beer selection as well, as well as sangria. Make sure to purchase a shirt or hat on the way out! You may also see key deer around the pub itself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Florida Keys Itinerary and that it helps you plan your vacation! From here, it’s time to drive out of the Keys and head back to Miami. Drive carefully and pack a little extra patience in case traffic leaving the islands is backed up. And remember: You can leave the Keys, but the Keys will never leave you!

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